Friday, June 17, 2016

The Bishop's Daughter

J.P. Lee, Bishop of Manchester
On the morning of 11 July 1857, 26 year old Sophia Katherine Lee slipped out of her parent's home to marry the Rev. John Booker, a bookish curate from Prestwich. They were married at St. James' Church in the village of Heaton Mersey. It was the church where her family worshiped but they did not attend the wedding. Now, this caused comment for Sophie's father was no less than the Bishop of Manchester. A decade earlier, the Rev. James Prince Lee was chosen by the Queen to lead the first ever episcopal see in the Industrial Midlands. His biographers concede the Bishop was a bit of a despot. He was married and had two daughters. The Rev. Booker had stayed with the Lee family whilst researching one of his antiquarian interests in the neighborhood. A romance with Sophie blossomed but the Bishop could not feel that a wine merchant's son from Yorkshire, a mere curate, was suitable for his daughter and he let that be known. If they went ahead, he would never forgive them. They did and he didn't. When the Bishop died in 1869, his will declared, "To my elder daughter, I give nothing. I deprive her of all interest in my property. This I do not do in anger but because I hold it my duty not to let such conduct as hers and the person she married prove successful." The will was published for all to read and caused a new sensation. It was as if "the person" his daughter had married was a "dissolute valet" and not a respected clergyman who now had his own church in Surrey. A clerical friend wrote to the newspapers defending Sophie's conduct. The Rev. Booker had proven in every respect a worthy husband. "In short, she had loved. She had ultimately to make her election. She disobeyed - she was but a woman." 

Many a curate's romance did not run smoothly. There was Mr. Fryer of Leamington or Mr. Finlayson of Alderley Edge, for example. Their stories and more can be found in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1.
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Illustration: Wikipedia.
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